Thousands of people marched on Monday evening through Yerevan streets in support of the “Daredevils of Sasun” armed group that has been occupying a police station in the city’s Erebuni district since July 17.
The protesters began the march from the cordoned off section in front of the police headquarters and walked to the city center and back to Erebuni, chanting “Unity!”, “Serzhik, go away!” and “Sasna Tsrer!” (the name of the group in Armenian).
“The 'Daredevils of Sasun' have been liberated; they are no longer scared of anything!” Levon Barseghyan, the head of Gyumri-based “Asparez” journalists' club and a member of the city’s Council of Elders, said to those gathered during a pre-march rally held on the street leading to the seized building.
“Have you ever seen this many people standing by terrorists? [Serzh Sargsyan] thinks he’ll win by starving these men to death, but he apparently does not realize that the Daredevils of Sasun have given up on anything; these people have long decided to sacrifice themselves. Serzhik wants to destroy them by starving them, by bringing tanks and helicopters on them… But these people are liberating themselves, and a liberated person can never lose,” Barseghyan declared.
Even if authorities consider the gunmen to be criminals, he went on, they still have to provide them with the bread they’d get if they were in prison; “If they don’t, then they are torturing [the gunmen]. The only way to resolve this situations is through negotiations, but Serzh Sargsyan wants to show the public that he is a ‘cool guy’, that he won’t negotiate…Be we know who the actual cool guys are…”
Alek Yenigomshyan, a Founding Parliament member who told reporters earlier today that the gunmen had been deprived of food for at least 2 days, announced during the rally that the gunmen’s sympathizers would bring “all kinds of foodstuff" to the blocked off street in the morning and that authorities had until 9 am Tuesday to allow Zaruhi Postanjyan, a lawmaker from opposition Heritage party, to pass the food to the group.
Earlier on Monday, Armenia’s National Security Service issued a statement to announce that the members of the armed group might be relieved of criminal liability if they voluntarily lay down their weapons and gave themselves up to law enforcement authorities.
According to NSS, the gunmen are currently facing charges of hostage-taking, illegal arms possession, and seizing government buildings, which envisage up to 15 years of imprisonment. If they voluntarily back away from the above-mentioned crimes, authorities said, they may be exempted from criminal responsibility.